Friday, August 10, 2007

U.S. Poker Players Stuck Playing the Funds-Shuffling Game

The restrictions put into place related to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) have made it difficult for players to move money into and out of their favorite sites. Funding one's play has been difficult enough, with most credit cards not working months or years earlier, and the online payment processors picked off one by one. But for all the difficulties in getting money onto a site, getting it off again has been much, much worse.

U.S. Poker Sites - Top 5 sites accepting USA Players.

Well documented in recent months have been the difficulties faced by sites in keeping channels of repayment to players open. Electronic file transfers (EFTs) are only a fraction of what they once were, with the millions of dollars frozen in unfortunate NETeller customers' accounts rueful evidence of what happens when a system is frozen by outside events. In any event, it served as fair warning to one and all: Keep excessive funds in this type of payment mechanism at your own peril.

While most sites were quick to open alternate channels for making deposits, they haven't been as quick to keep multiple withdrawal channels open. It's been whack-a-mole season on paper-check processors who chose to do disbursement of funds for various online poker sites, and not a single U.S.-facing site has avoided the effects of having a check processor pull the rug out from under the process. Time and again, the sites have been left hanging, although they do tend to find alternate payment avenues. Frankly, the sites have been a hell of a lot more honorable than the banks and the U.S. government, which should come as a surprise to no one.

But payment by paper check has been a scattershot process; when one site succeeds in finding a trustworthy, volume-capable check processor, another one runs into troubles. Full Tilt and Bodog have been two of the sites most frequently running into trouble; with delays in some instances taking several weeks. Poker Stars is large enough to be able to afford multiple processors, but even they, too, have been staggered by banks' finicky behavior.

It's no surprise that when the largest sites have struggled, the smaller ones have, as well. One play reports that a check received from the Merge Network's site, Australian-based, received a payment by check, payable in U.S. funds, that arrived in just a few days. But the same process tried just a few weeks later on a second withdrawal ran into troubles, as indicated in the following forwarded text:

Dear Customer,

We are writing to you with regards to the check withdrawal you submitted with our site. Due to an unforseen administrative issue these checks have not yet been dispatched, and will not be until late next week. We are profusely sorry for this delay and can assure you we are doing everything in our power to speed up the resolution to this matter. In the meantime we would like to extend to you the option to either

a) Leave your transaction unchanged and we should have the check delivered to you within 10 working days or;
b) Have us credit the funds back to your player wallet so you can choose an alternate withdrawal from our site, such as [online phone-card outlet] or ewalletxpress.

Should you wish to take option b) please write your request to the cashier department with the following information: *

Your *nickname* (the player name you have at the tables) and the *transaction id for* the withdrawal (this can be found in either the "History" section of your software cashier or in the "Ledger" section of your Player Admin).

The funds should be returned back to your player wallet within 24 hours of you sending your request.

We realise this may inconvenience some players and as a gesture of apology we have credited your account with a 10k Freeroll coupon, which can be used to enter any Sunday 10k Freeroll held at 15:00 software time.

Again, we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Kind Regards

The Cashier Department.

It is indeed both an inconvenience to everyone involved and at least an attempt at goodwill gesture by the site; the value of the freeroll coupon noted is $10-15, based on attendance, granted, of course, that the event is already scheduled with a fixed purse, so they're not actually adding any money, just diluting the value per seat by adding extra players.

Interestingly, the site used to accept ePassporte transactions, but that option seems to have been removed at about the same time. That leaves the option of trying to open an eWalletXpress account, dumping money onto a virtual phone card of limited secondary value, or waiting for the check-processing issue to be resolved and a new channel put into place. Overall, it's very, very typical of the problems faced by all sites and players these days.

What the UIGEA has taken away, above all else, is liquidity.

Of secondary note is the disappearance of ePassporte, at least at the present time. One possible explanation is that the Merge Network sites have recently implemented blackjack and other "house"-based card games, while ePassporte seems to be positioning itself more and more as a poker-only outlet. A recent 2+2 thread detailed a UB/Absolute player who was asked by ePassporte to sign a document proclaiming that the funds moving through ePassporte were for poker use only, not for the other games.

That's more than interesting. It's also possible that UB still generates enough traffic to make it worthwhile for ePassporte to differentiate between poker and other transactions of the company, while smaller sites, such as the Merge Network skins, don't make ePassporte's cut. If that's the case, it could explain why ePassporte has been disabled on those sites.

It also again indicates that ePassporte may quite be willing to make that legal stand we hinted at in a post not long ago. After all, why go to the trouble of differentiating all these transaction types if one if planning on closing up shop anyway?

Even when no major news is breaking, little events like these are happening almost daily. The landscape continues to shift.

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